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Halfway houses ease prison overcrowding, save money, Oklahoma Corrections Department official says

by Andrew Knittle Published: July 15, 2012

Inmates either work at regular jobs or on crews doing specialized labor for governmental entities, he said.

“It helps them build up a nest egg, if you will, and they have to pay back some of that to the state, which helps defer the cost to the state,” Massie said.

While escapes and misconduct are common among halfway houses, they don't appear to pose a major threat to communities that surround them.

Indeed, most of infractions logged by inmates at halfway houses are related to being under the influence of drugs, not staying within the agreed-upon confinement area and being in possession of cellphones inside the facility.

“The way the system is set up, it kind of flows from higher security to lower security,” Massie said. “As people are getting closer to being released, the hope is they behave until that time comes.”

Not in my backyard

Yet halfway houses can face stiff opposition when they try to enter new communities, which is the case in Del City.

The Del City zoning commission rejected a private company's proposal to relocate one of its halfway houses to the city from south Oklahoma City. The city council will decide the issue Tuesday.

“People tend to freak out when they hear they're going to build a halfway house, or a prison for that matter, in their area,” Massie said. “It's normal. It's expected.”

For now, the department is expected to keep its halfway house program in place, but growth isn't likely.

“I don't think so,” Massie said. “We are good with what we have now, so I don't see that happening any time soon.”